I’m an introvert.
Way, way down on the introvert spectrum.
So is my husband.
We don’t like big events. Giant-sized gatherings mean lots of stress, anxiety, and the longer we stay the worse it gets (and the longer it takes to recuperate). We’re into smaller, more intimate gatherings. The kind where you can have an in-depth, meaningful conversations. The kind where you can really focus and give attention to the handful of people that are there.
That’s not to say we can’t (and don’t) do Events, just that we’re selective.
We also know what to expect during, and after.
For my husband, a half-day trip to Disneyland means he needs at least a month of recovery before he can go again. For me, I better not schedule any errands or outings a day or two after.
We need a few days of quiet rest, of lounging around the house, the park, or the beach.
Is it any surprise that our daughter has a similar temperament?
I saw signs of this at Kate’s first Christmas when she wasn’t yet 5 months old. I saw how upset she’d get from all the noise, the lights, the strangers (strangers to her) who wanted a turn holding the baby.
Right from the beginning, we needed to keep an eye on her. Look for signs of agitation and quiet warning cries before The Big One came. Kate had a very clear, very distinct line that Should Not Be Crossed, and we’d swiftly remove her from the situation.
And also, right from the beginning, it became clear that no one seemed to understand that she was her own person, with her own feelings.
Her feelings were often ignored because she was the baby.
Her feelings didn’t matter compared to The Adults.
And sure enough, that trend has continued, and I’m seriously getting sick of it.
I was just admonished the other day for not agreeing to let Kate see the new parade at Disneyland. You know, the one that starts at 9 p.m. I was told that, “it’s just one night and she should be allowed to see it once in her life!”
She can see it when she’s old enough to make the decision for herself. When she’s old enough to understand what the packed-in crowds, lights, ridiculously loud music will do to her.
(Then, I’m going to let the person who pushed for this parade to deal with those consequences the next day because I’m certainly not going to.)
And yet, two days after the parade conversation I was again taken to task (by someone else) about a decision my husband and I made to limit Kate’s big events. Her sleep schedule and temperament have been completely out-of-whack since Daylight Savings (along with our mistake of scheduling too much) and we’ve been working hard to get her back on track.
Yet, it didn’t matter to this person that our choice was, you know, working….
All that mattered was we were limiting her social experiences. That we weren’t properly ‘exposing’ her to the stress of parties. That the 3-4 outings we go on each week, even meeting other families and kids, didn’t count.
And you know, I honestly don’t mind when someone offers advice.
I don’t mind when they give their opinion because that’s how I learn. That’s how I get more and better ideas to figure out this difficult task called parenting.
But here’s what I do mind: I know my kid better than you.
Seriously. I do.
I know the subtle shift in her body when she spots some Cool Pond or pairing of ducks looking for a snack, and I know when she’s going to bolt. Just like I know the signs of her getting over-stimulated and the situations that will push her faster than a pissed-off hornets nest right into the red zone.
So, when I say, “Thanks, but these are my reasons for not following your suggestion….”
I heard you. I said no, now let it go.
Stop trying to make judgment on my daughter’s temperament as if you know what she’s going through.
Accept that when we decide, “No Big Events for 2 weeks,” that we had reasons behind this decision. That we had many long, in-depth conversations before we came to this decision.
Don’t judge us and certainly don’t compare our daughter to yours.
She’s her own person.
She’s also only two.
She hasn’t had three decades of trial and error like we have. Exploring and experimenting. Trying and then evaluating (and then evaluating again when the second try turned out like the first).
Kate doesn’t understand that if we go to Child’s Ridiculously Big Birthday Party, that there will be consequences.
She doesn’t yet know the effects of this fun, but loud, boisterous event will have on her. That it will wire and ramp up her little system, pushing her farther and farther into the red zone until…
She can’t unwind.
She can’t calm down.
She can’t sleep that night, then the one after that. Maybe even for another week or two (and you can seriously forget about holding her pee those nights too).
And the problem is Kate doesn’t have the tools yet to understand why or to recognize these ‘warning’ signs within her body.
But I do.
That’s my role as a parent, and one I understand because we share the same temperament. It’s my job to slowly teach her these signs, what they mean, and what to do about them.
It’s also my job to limit these Big Events and to space them out so they don’t overwhelm her. We do go to family gatherings and birthday parties, and we love going to Disneyland, but we find ways to make these into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Trial and error is often required, and you know, these two weeks of no events was a trial too. We wanted to see what would happen… (and what happened is that I haven’t washed her bed sheets for several days, which is pretty darn awesome).
And frankly, I need a quieter, slower life too. Certainly if I want to write.
A few years ago, at one of the Oregon Coast workshops put on by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, they talked about making your writing a priority and defending the time you set aside for writing. (To be honest, they’ve talked about this so often that I haven’t a clue when I first heard it, only that I’ve been consciously working on it since I decided to take writing seriously.)
What their teaching meant (for me), is that I needed to limit the events and obligations. The more things I have on my calendar, the less energy I have to write.
This is even more true since I became a parent (certainly since I had #2).
Because of how my brain is hard-wired, I need time and quiet to recuperate. I need to catch my mental breath and have my plate cleared of events and errands (and all those details needed to get myself and my two kids out the door… like remembering to ask Kate to go potty before she gets strapped into the car seat or giving Eric’s diaper a quick sniff before he joins her).
The more stuff on my plate, the more stressed I become. When I hit my red zone, well, I can forget about the writing.
We decided to slow our family down. To slow down our lives and to say ‘no’ to someone’s party or gathering unless we decide that this is one we should indeed go to.
We’re still going out. We’re still having fun.
And the results have been amazing.
Kate’s getting her rest again, even napping too with less struggles. We’re able to enjoy her and Eric more, especially with how fast our baby boy is growing up.
Slowing down has given me the energy and patience to be the kind of parent I want to be.
It’s also allowed me to write again.
We are a family of introverts (though Eric might turn out to be the exception!), and you may not agree with us, but I’d ask that you try to understand. And even if you can’t understand, then please respect the decisions we’re making for our children and for our own lives, just like we try to do for yours.
And in case you’re wondering… Kate will not be attending the ‘Paint the Night’ parade at Disneyland. She’s only two. There’s still plenty of time.
Plus, that’s what YouTube is for.